Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Federal government not getting the best IT people, even from contractors; Silicon Valley salaries are very high for real "talent"

Tom Cochran has in interesting piece on the Washington Post Switch Blog today, about the need for the federal government to get serious about recruiting IT talent, link here. That would seem to apply more to the employees contractors hire.
Cochran compares the entry level salary of a federal IT worker to that in Facebook or a major Silicon Valley company.  I presume that contractors get paid more than GS-7’s – the comparison is interesting, because the $42000 today compares to about $9700 in 1971 (when I worked for the Navy and a friend made that salary).  Top talent in developers can start at $150000, plus stock options, at Facebook. I didn’t realize that.
Cochran also discusses the need for recent college graduates to draw big money to pay back student loans.  The government pay won’t cut it.
I also wonder about another overlooked issue – the mainframe side.  People with those kinds of skills have been retiring, after the job market became fragmented following Y2K.  (The behavior of employer clients in the years following Y2K and 9/11 did not treat older professionals with a lot of respect.)   It sounds like the kind of maturity it takes to thoroughly test a system like “healthcare.gov” behind the scenes, with all the comparisons between insurance plans and the complicated business requirements, wasn’t there in the workforce that developed and deployed the system.  There’s a lot more to worry about than just the website.
Remember, a lot of people can code, but fewer can implement!
Even so, “coding” is important.  Remember the whizbang skills of a young Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the opening scenes of “The Social Network”.  It was like playing piano.  People don’t get and maintain those skills without some inner psychological drive, and that doesn’t persist forever in one’s career.  Eventually, for most of us, “The Peter Principle” tales over.  We become managers or perhaps “auteurs”.  But we use packages and apps, and leave the methods coding statements for others.  About the only time right now I look at code in my own life is raw HTML (with XSL and XML) when something doesn’t look right after posting. 

The mainframe gigs keep showing up in my AOL mailbox, and some of them are desperate, for an IBM mainframe  ALC guru to fix something in the next three months (maybe related to the processing behind Obamacare) . And I got still another vanilla COBOL-CICS-VSAM-JCL requisition in my mail. They’ve become much more frequent. 

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